There was lots more enjoyable stops as we made our way along the coast of New South Wales towards Byron Bay. As we arrived in the Great Lakes region, we took a very scenic drive to the twin towns of Forster and Tuncurry, where the vast Wallis Lake meets the ocean.
There was beautiful beaches either side of the connecting bridge, as well as several ocean pools, including the popular Tuncurry Rockpools. This perfect swimming spot was a complete contrast to the exposed Nine Mile Beach found the other side of the headland.
After our now routine early start, the following day started with another scenic drive to Port Macquarie. We stopped on the outskirts of the town to visit the tiny Tacking Point lighthouse, which dates back to 1879.
Arriving into Port Macquarie, our first stop was at the Sea Acres National Park. We were given a guided tour of the 1.3km boardwalk by fellow pommie Steve, who was very knowledgeable about the trees and animals that call the rainforest home. This was great value at $9 (£5.70) per person.
After parking in the centre of the town, we walked along a short section of the busy coastal walk, a 9km trail which finishes at Tacking Point. Starting at Town Beach, we admired the views from Flagstaff Hill, before finishing at the beautiful Oxley Beach.
Our final stop in Port Macquiare was at the Koala Hospital, which is free to visit. The Hospital was established in 1973, and treats sick and injured Koalas, providing a permanent home to those that are unable to be returned to the wild. We walked around the informative exhibits, before meeting some of the current residents.
Further along the coast, we made a brief visit to Nambucca Heads. While we were disappointed with the town itself, we did enjoy walking along the colourful V-Wall. Locals and tourists alike have been encouraged to decorated the breakwall, and with almost all of the concrete boulders now covered, there are some very artistic designs on display.
Our visit to Coffs Harbour started with a stroll around the large marina, before we walked across to the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. We made the short but steep climb over the island, and down to the Eastern Side lookout, where we sighted yet more whales. This time there was no doubt at all, as we watched their huge tails crashing back into the ocean, and it was another incredible experience.
We made a short visit to the town itself, which had the usual shops and cafes. We had a very enjoyable coffee from Artisti, before grabbing some lunch from the Ootoya Japanese restaurant.
The most well known tourist attraction in Coffs Harbour is the Big Banana, an amusement park which is set amongst a banana plantation, and includes a water park, toboggan ride and mini golf. The park is particularly difficult to miss, with the entrance to the park dominated by a huge walk-through banana.
While this is the sort of place we usually hate and avoid at all costs, it’s not every day you come across a banana themed amusement park, so we stopped off for a quick visit. Although we didn’t try out any of the rides, our visit was made worthwhile by the incredible banana split from the park’s cafe!
Our highlight along this coastline was the Look At Me Now Headland walk, a short 1.6km trail through the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve. We met lots of kangaroos as well walked along the cliff edge, and there was great views of the beaches on either side of the headland. The route finished with a short walk along the beautiful, and deserted Emerald Beach.
We travelled inland from Coffs Harbour on the Waterfall Way scenic drive, which included the impressive Dangar Falls. We also visited the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, where the Skywalk lookout took us 21m above the rainforest, to provide incredible panoramic views of the National Park below.
Our base for the two nights we spent exploring the region, was in the small but popular town of Bellingen, well known for its farmers markets and several music festivals which it plays host to. We enjoyed some great fish and chips from the Tuck Shop, before heading to the excellent value Federal Hotel for some drinks.
Our days seemed to be even busier than usual as we travelled through New South Wales, and it was quickly becoming our favourite state, with so many different things to see and do at each place we visited.